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Residents decry subdivision project in Midas Hill

By Coores E. Celoy and Vic Arthur R. Masliyan

 

The residents of Midas Hill in sitio Kesbeng at Barangay Poblacion, La Trinidad, Benguet, decry the on-going subdivision project. To them, said construction is detrimental not only in Midas Hill but also in its surrounding barangay.

In fact, in September 2018, during the wrath of typhoon Ompong, a portion of the land eroded from the subdivision area when buried and damaged parts of Sitio Kesbeng, Central Buyagan, and some parts of Barangay Wangal. It was just fortunate that there were no casualties.

The subject property is about nine hectares and is privately owned by three individuals. The owners, however, allowed developers to construct a subdivision on their land. Eventually, Cordillera Home Saint Francis Inc. (CHSF), the first developer company attempted to build the infrastructures. However, it was stopped due to deficiency of required papers for construction.

In 2004, CHSF Inc. turned-over the project to the CDJ Group Construction. The project was then headed by Jude Wal. The CDJ then continued the project which paved way to the subdivision construction project.

The construction continued until typhoon Ompong came. Since a large portion of soil eroded towards its nearby areas, the Municipal Engineers Office, together with the barangay officials, conducted an investigation and found out that there were no mitigating measures made by CDJ. Accordingly, before constructing any kind of infrastructures, the company must first build canal and ripraps.

According to Manuel Amoy Jr., Barangay. Captain of Poblacion, La Trinidad, they also found out that CDJ has started their construction without a building permit. As a result, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) revoked the Environment Certificate of Compliance (ECC) of CDJ. ECC is one of the requirements in order to grant a building permit.

Moreover, Amoy Jr. also said that public consultation with the community was conducted. It was even claimed that there were no oppositions that came from the residents. It was also alleged that the residents only opposed the construction after the incident brought by typhoon Ompong.

Randolf Sabado, a resident of Sitio Kesbeng, on the other hand, contradicted the statement by the Barangay Poblacion. According to him, they have been opposing the said project for a decade by filing several petitions. He further said that no public consultation was ever made neither were there public announcements for a public consultation. In fact, the initial report of the CDJ to the Municipality of La Trinidad showed that only the barangay officials of Poblacion attended the said public consultation.

Due to these circumstances, the barangay requested a resolution for closure of the project with the office of the Mayor. Thus, Mayor Romeo Salda of La Trinidad issued a Cease and Desist Order (CDO) in January 2019 against the CDJ. The CDJ, on the other hand, filed a Motion to lift the CDO which was granted. At present, the CDJ is now processing their building permit to continue the operation and to construct the mitigating measures which has to be built first before continuing the project.

Further, Amoy Jr. admits that local ordinances on development projects are not yet established.

“As long as the CDJ comply with the requirements, there will be no problem in their construction of subdivision because it is their right to do so. But like any other rights, it has to be exercised with caution because it may bring about unwanted effect to the environment,” Amoy Jr. said.

“The local government does not seem to be helping the community. It seems that they favor the developers more than the welfare of the community,” Sabado decried.

Whispers from the Wild

By Jurjen Sublino and Arthur Soriano Jr.

Mount Pulag in Kabayan, Benguet, boasts not only of its mossy forest and spectacular sunrise view. It is also home to various flora and fauna that flourishes through its mountains. There’s more.

In 2015, a breakthrough was reported when a species that was declared extinct for a hundred years, was found in this rich mountain of Pulag. This species is called the silver earth rat.

This rat is as small as human finger, ranging from 239 to 299 millimeters. Accounts say, that hundred of years go, this unique kind of rat disappeared from its original habitat at the mossy forest of Mt. Data in Mt. Province. In 2015, Dr. Lawrence R. Heaney a curator and head of the Division of mammals at the Field museum in Chicago and an author of books on island biodiversity discovered the rat in Mt. Pulag.

In his book titled, “The mammals of Luzon Island”, the Chrotomy Silaceus or the silver earth rat has a dark gray color, medium size, stout body with a thick tail that is shorter than its head and body, small eyes, elongated snout, and a soft fur. It is usually found in the Highlands of Northern Luzon, specifically on the Central Cordilleras.

This species is not just a mere tiny creature. It has valuable contribution among farmers, too. It stays near farms and feed from earthworms and other soil invertebrates by digging in organic materials such as leaf-litter and humus, hence it helps in cultivating a healthy soil. It’s extinction for years is believed to be caused by gradual destruction of its their natural habitat.

The destruction of forests exists up to this time causing damage to animals in their natural habitat. In fact, records show that not only was the silver earth rat that became extinct or endangered in the mountains of Cordillera. Recent reports say that even the cloud rat, Philippine eagle, fishes such as the mud fish and even the fern trees are slowly going into extinction.

Their natural habitats were destroyed forcing them to move to other places just to look for food. Unfortunately, when they go near communities, people would hunt them either as pet or for business. Which must stop because they are not for commercial purposes. The ferns are not an exemption. They are being exposed and are made into souvenirs, sold in the different markets in Baguio City and other nearby areas.

According to Senior Ecosystem Management specialist Linda Claire Pawed of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources – Cordillera Administrative Region (DENR CAR), the population of the surrendered wildlife to the DENR Rescue Center is becoming alarming not just because of their increasing number but also because of the situation of the species when surrendered.

Most of them accordingly, are not in good condition. They are either wounded or almost killed while some even die. These are because they are either considered as pets for a long time by people and surrendered to them if they can’t take care of it anymore. Common of these species for the past few years, are namely the grass owl, hawks, serpent eagles, and snakes.

These animals were taken care of in the rescue center for several days depending on their capability to recover. Sometimes it would take a long time because they are in serious situations like broken wings, broken legs and even having pellets inside their body. After they are healed their condition made better, they are released to the wild where they belong.

Moreover, steps were taken by the DENR in order to protect the wildlife aside from having their rescue center that could be contacted through the number 442-4531. They endeavor for certain areas to be declared as of protected areas.  To protect the species’ habitat such as the rivers, mountains, forests among others.

The Republic Act 9147 or the so called “Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act” of 2001 is one of the laws that governs wildlife protection. It aims to conserve and protect wildlife species and their habitats to promote ecological balance and enhance biological diversity.

Moreover, it also aims to regulate the collection and trade of wildlife, pursue interests and initiate or support scientific studies on the conservation of biological diversity. In other words, it is in place solely for the protection of the wild and their habitat.

Pawid reminds the public not to hunt these animals and avoid using air guns and slingshots or tirador. Instead help in protecting them for a balanced ecosystem. She reiterated that these species are not for commercial purposes.

“When it comes to the plants like the ferns and orchids they are best to be in their original place” Pawid said.

Silver Bataclao from Buguias, Benguet said she is aware of the endangered animals specially the giant eel that are usually seen in Mt. Province. She said that their extinction could be prevented if authorities would put their focus on protecting and propagating these species first rather than promoting tourism to the detriment of the wildlife.

“The wild belongs to the wild. They are part of the ecosystem and helps in balancing the ecology. When they are killed, it can contribute to climate change. The cycle must stop. We must be conscious of their existence because they also have a purpose in our environment,” said Pawid. Let us protect and conserve the wild,” Pawid ended.

Scholarship grants make dreams possible

 By Carmina Vale Tarangco and Esjay Zausa

 

“I will finish my studies.”

This is the promise of Alexa Jayco Dalisay, 22, to her departed father.

Alexa lost her father in 2017 when she was still a grade 6 pupil. They migrated from Sorsogon to Baguio City due to a dispute on land among her relatives. Instead of claiming her share, they chose to stay out of the feud. But this was not the only feud they had to endure. Her dad had another family. Thus, they also struggled for the time they can spend with her father. They also struggled financially because her father cannot fully provide what they needed. Sadly enough, things got worse when her father died.

From then on, her mom had to do all the works including looking for ways to sustain their financial needs. Currently, she works as a clerk at a massage parlor.

Seeing her mother’s struggle for them including her sister, she set her goal to finish her study and graduate. Whatever it takes, she said.

True to this, she graduated class valedictorian of their high school batch. This allowed her to avail a one school year full scholarship for tertiary education at the University of Baguio (UB).

Her scholarship, however, was not enough to get her through college. She realized that her mother’s income would not be sufficient to support their daily expenses. To pay 20,000 pesos every semester, she needed to do something.

As a freshman, she applied for Special Program for Employment of Students (SPES) every summer break. Here, she would receive 10,000- 12,000 pesos. This amount was directly deposited at the registrar of UB. Still not enough to cover her whole tuition fee for the year, she applied for the Tulong Dunong program of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED). Here she would receive three thousand pesos every semester. In order to fill the remaining amount, she made sure to keep her good academic record. She became a consistent Dean’s lister during her entire college years.

Every semester, she would make sure to get into a scholarship program in order to support her studies. In the entirety of her college years, she has enjoyed three scholarship grants from SPES, CHED, and the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).

Now, at the age of 22, she will be graduating in June with the degree Bachelor of Science in Mathematics. And she is proud to say that she will be the very first to graduate among her half-brothers and half-sisters, both in her mother’s and father’s side.

Alexa’s story is an example of how the government supports its constituents through scholarship grants to students seeking for and in need of financial help.

A scholarship is a financial aid given to deserving students for them to be able to continue their education. Various types of scholarship providers (i.e. government, corporations, schools), both local and abroad, offer scholarships that can help one pay his or her tuition fees. It is awarded based on various criteria which usually reflect the values and purposes of the donor or founder of the award. Scholarship money is not required to be repaid.

All students are welcome to apply for any scholarship grants from different scholarship providers. On the other hand, not everyone is granted the scholarship. The scholarship provider would screen out deserving students who would be enjoying the scholarship through certain criteria.

Scholarship grantees, on the other hand, also have their counterpart in sustaining their grant. For some scholarship providers, they require their grantees to maintain a certain grade throughout the semester while some would check the background of the applicant whether they are coming from a poor family or not.

Like Alexa, through these scholarships and grants, there have been thousands of grantees who were able to finish their respective degrees. Alexa is just one of them.

“There is no reason not to pursue what we have set as our goal. Many resources are available to us. We just have to find it and work on it,” Alexa said.

“Poverty is not a hindrance to our dream. Be resourceful,” Alexa advised.

Barangay Pico upholds Barangay Justice System

By: Novelyn Balangui and Claudine Paulino

 

The Philippine courts are clogged with cases. As a result, not every case is speedily resolved through the trial court. Some, if not most, remain unsolved for several years even outliving the complainant. Thus, to help in the declogging of court dockets, the Barangay Justice System was put in place.

The Barangay Justice System is community-based dispute settlement mechanism administered by the barangay. It covers disputes between members of the same community and involves the Punong Barangay and other members of the communities (the Lupon members) as intermediaries. It provides a friendly, inexpensive, and speedy forum for the settlement of disputes through amicable settlement without resorting to the courts.

The Lupon members are vital to do dispensation of the disputes in the barangay level. They are not men in uniform. They do not earn high salary. In fact their service is voluntary. Despite these, they offer their service as peace maker of the community.

“Ti lupon nangatngato ti qualipikasyon na no ti presidente, ta haan lang nga masapul nga ammu na agsurat wenno agbasa (Lupon has higher qualification than the qualification of a president because a Lupon must not only be able to read and write),” Artemio Bangaan jokingly says. Bangaan is a lupon member of Barangay Pico in the Municipality of La Trinidad, Benguet.

Accordingly, a Lupon member should have personal integrity, fairness, independence of mind, reputation for honesty without fooling his or her fellowmen, social standing as a good man, resourceful (ability to search for the truth aside from testimonies), patient in a sense that they should not lose temper in listening with the disputants even in illogical and (stupid) statements, and to be flexible and willing to accommodate everyone who came to the their barangay.

These characteristics are what the Lupon memebers of barangay Pico endeavor to possess. Barangay Pico is one among the barangays in La Trinidad which maintains the maximum number of their Barangay Justice System. Now, they have 20 members.

“Agpasalamat kami kadagitoy lupon nga nagboluntaryo nga talaga nga kayat da nga agserbi para iti peace and order ti barangay (We are thankful for the volunteers who willingly extend their help in maintaining peace and order in our barangay)”, said Melicio Basingga, Barangay Kagawad.

Under the Katarungang Pambansang Law (KPL) the cases being addressed by Lupons are unlawful arrest, using false certificates, physical injuries inflicted in a tumultuous affray, less serious and slight physical injuries, grave or light coercion (payment of wages by means of tokens), occupation of real property, revealing secrets with abuse of authority,  theft, estafa, and others.

In Barangay Pico, slight physical injury is the most common case brought to the Lupon. Accordingly, this is usually due to the influence of alcohol intake. Most of the time, though, parties agreed to settle their differences through giving medical treatment to the injured. From there, the conflict is resolved. Hence, the parties need not go through court processes.

With these efforts, Lupons of barangay Pico was been awarded as a hall of famer in the Lupong Tagapamayapa Incentives Awards (LTIA) program of the Department of Local and Interior Government (DILG). This were given in 2002, 2003, and 2004, consecutively. Their accomplishments are recognized not only in Benguet but nationwide.

“These awards inspire us to serve better,” says Basingga.

“We take it upon ourselves to uphold the honour of those Lupon members who served before us. We hope that we can sustain it,” Basingga added.

Mario Baw-es, is now a Chairman of the Lupon members in barangay Pico after almost 20 years in service. He said he never thought of quitting as a member of the Lupon because of his desire for public service. He learned that being Lupon or a peacemaker requires someone to be unbiased for the common good of both parties.

“Masapul nga awan ti panpanigan, nu anya pagsaya-atan ti both parties ket isu dapat ti masurut”We shouldn’t be one-sided. We follow what is good for both parties),” said, Baw-es. He added that, being a lupon enabled him to be patient and to stay calm. This, he said, is a necessary characteristic of a Lupon to effectively carry out his duty.

The challenge in their everyday life is being judged as one sided when it comes to handling cases. However, Mario explains that their roles as Lupons are just mediator for what is better for the both parties by not prolonging the conflict and will be given immediate solution through amicable settlements agreed by both parties through the mediation of the members of the Barangay Justice System.

“It’s not easy. We get judged, too. Some would say we are biased. But we are not” says Baw-es.

Despite the criticisms and the fact that they are not paid for their service, they remain steadfast in their passion to serve their community.

“Service is not about the money but about what we can contribute to the peace and order of our barangay,” the Lupon members said in unison.

Ibaloys celebrate first Ibaloy Festival

By: Novelyn Balangui and Claudine Paulino

 

He lifts his hands up and dances through the rhythm of the gangsa (gong) and the hallow wooden drum-like sound of solibao. He is Brix Baldino. A cultural dancer and a cultural instrument player. He is an Ibaloy.

Ibaloy is one of the indigenous ethnic tribes in the province of Benguet. They are found in the northern part of the Philippines, particularly in the province of Benguet, and some parts of Nueva Vizcaya, and Baguio City.

To unite the Ibaloys, late Cecile Afable founded the Onjon ni Ivadoy,Inc. According to Franklin Cocoy, President of Onjon ni Ivadoy, Inc., the organization was accredited by the Baguio City Government, as well as the Benguet Province. Later in 2019, City Council No. 182 was passed designating portion of Burnham Park, particularly the area between the City Orchidarium and the Children’s Park, as the Ibaloy Heritage Garden. This is the same area where the first Ibaloy Festival was held.

The objectives of the festival are to showcase the Ibaloy culture, to inform the public of a thriving Ibaloy tribe, to invite and encourage all Ibaloys to register as a member of the Unjon Ni Ivadoy, and to attract tourists through the “Marikit ni Ivaloy” a pre-pageant selection for the  Miss Ibaloy.

During the festival, a series of activities were conducted such as the grand parade joined by the Ibaloys from different municipalities. There were also Ibaloy Exhibits showcasing the culture of Ibaloys and the history of the Onjon ni Ivadoy Inc. Moreover, the 1st pageant for Marikit ni Ivadoy was conducted which aimed not only to show the beauty but also the values that an Ibaloy has. Through these activities, the festival was filled with a throng of visitors form different places.

Micaella Codovo, psychology student from Pangasinan, said that the festival reminded her to stay proud of the rich Filipino culture.

“Many people are not aware of our rich culture. It is through this festival that help us get informed about this very beautiful and rich culture of the Ibaloys.”

Dexter, a proud Ibaloy said, “I am happy that people from other culture patronized our culture as Ibaloy. I hope though that they won’t see this as an exploitation of our culture but to see it as a showcase of our rich cultural heritage.”

As a cultural advocate, Baldino feels happy and proud. He also admits that he was amazed that there are more to know about Igorot’s culture. He also encourages all Ibaloys to register as a member of the Onjon ni Ivadoy,Inc.

Franklin Cocoy, on the other hand, said that joining the organization will recognize you as an ibaloy. He also said that they can also extend financial assistance among Ibaloys through raising funds from different groups.

“May Ibaloys continue to unite and advocate for our heritage conservation and preservation,” end Baldino.

The First Ibaloy Festival started on March 22, 2019 and culminated on April 22, 2019 at the Ibaloy Heritage Garden, Burnham Park, in Baguio City. The proponent of the First Ibaloy Festival is the Onjon ni Ivadoy,Inc. (Unity of the Ibaloys) in partnership with Cicero Arts Production Incorporated, as the organizer of the event.

 

La Trinidad readies for 2019 Election

By: Novelyn Balangui and Claudine Paulino

 

The Commission on Election of La Trinidad (COMELEC La-Trinidad) assures that candidates of the coming election will refrain from violating the Fair Election Act.

Republic Act No. 9006 otherwise known as the Fair Election Act, aims to enhance the holding of free, orderly, honest, peaceful and credible elections through fair election practices. This includes lawful election propaganda which regulates the use of any medium used by candidates either local or national, whether through print, broadcast, television and other medium used for election propaganda.

“No ditoy ili tayo nga La Trinidad, maibaga nga natalna ta awan met kitdi ti maibaga nga aggat-gatang iti botos. Ngem no idiay daduma nga ili ket adda nga talaga (Here in La Trinidad, there are yet no cases of vote-buying. However in other areas, there are those who do vote-buying),” said Atty. Rodante C. Selpaten, COMELEC-LT Chairman.

Atty. Selpaten said that in his experience as COMELEC chairman, some places in the Cordillera o rampant violation of the election laws. Not only do they buy votes through money. Some buy votes using guns and violence.

“It was disheartening,” he said.

Atty. Selpaten noted, however, that such experience is way different here in La Trinidad.

“The campaign and election here in La Trinidad is generally peaceful,” he said.

He added that in La Trinidad, some candidates do not do straight vote-buying. Instead, they try to win the hearts of voters though giving donation. However, this is considered as another form of vote buying.

Chairman Selpaten added that while vote-buying is happening on La Trinidad, they are yet to validate these reports.

With this, citizens are encouraged to be vigilant and are asked to report those candidates who violate the said law.  It is when a complaint is made that violators can be apprehended. Thus, the COMELEC- La Trinidad encourages voters to coordinate with them to prevent further vote-buying and vote-selling.

While election campaign is on-going, candidates are using different medium to persuade voters such as the use of print, broadcast, and social media. As a preventive measure, the COMELEC initially conducted Oplan Baklas on April 5, 2019. This was done through a task force composed of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Philippine National Police (PNP), and the COMELEC-LT.

The COMELEC-LT said that campaign posters must be posted in designated areas only.  For the private properties, consent from the owner must first be obtained. Moreover, materials which do not follow the standard size limit and without the phrase “Political advertisement paid for” followed by the real name and address of candidate or the payor are prohibited.

Accordingly, 50 percent of the posted campaign materials in La Trinidad violated the mentioned prohibited facts. In fact, if they were to be stricter, around 70% of the materials posted will be removed for violating the law.

Yet again, the COMELEC reminds the candidates to strictly follow the rules under the fair election act especially vote-buying.

“No kasjay nga sincere ken honest da nga agsirbi ditoy ili tayo nga La Trinidad, ket masapol metlang a sincere da iti panagkampanya da (If the candidates are really sincere in serving La Trinidad they should also show their sincerity during the campaign),” said Atty. Selpaten.

With this, the COMELEC encourages the people to vote wisely.

“Isunga nasapa ti kampanya tapno adda oras dagiti botante nga maamuan ti kababalinan ken kinatatao dagiti kandidato (The reason why the campaign is early is for people to have enough time to know and assess whom they should vote),” Atty. Selpaten added.

Therefore, he said, the campaign period should not be abused by the candidates just to earn public trust. Voters, on the other hand, should be wise voters and not let themselves be easily dissuaded by false promises.

“As political candidates get wiser, we hope that voters get wiser in choosing the right candidates, too,” ended Atty. Selpaten.

“Ti election ket haan nga tungtungan ti kuwarta no di ket maipanggep iti masakbayan iti tattao a pagserbianda (Election is not about money. It is for the sake of the people to be served by them),” he ended.

BSU-DEVCOM EXTENDS LOVE, COMMUNITY REJOICES OUT LOUD

By Coores E. Celoy

Sitio Lao-angan, a remote place in barangay Gadang in Kapangan, Benguet rejoiced as students and faculty members from the Department of Development Communication (DDC) in Benguet State University (BSU) conducted an outreach activity in their community on April 13, 2019.

This sitio is situated in a foot of a mountain. It has a small population of around 230. To reach this place, one has to ride a jitney from Dangwa Square at Km. 6 in Betag, La Trinidad, in front of BSU. After a two-hour ride, the jump-off point stars at the barangay hall of Barangay Gadang in Kapangan. Thereafter, one has to walk for three hours before reaching a small school in the barrio, Lao-angan Barrio School. The school has only three rooms where pupils, from Grades one to six, take turn in their schedule to accommodate all of them.

There’s more. To reach the heart of the sitio, where the residents are, one has to descend for another one hour walk. Here, the community thrives on farming rice and camote (sweet potato), both for subsistence and additional income. Accordingly, much as they want to venture on farming as their main source of income, they can’t. A big percentage of their soil is not viable for farming.

As one goes around the sitio, one can easily notice a small store filled with snacks, canned goods, and other basic goods such as sugar, salt, and soap. This is the only store in the sitio. For those who wish to gain additional income, they carry goods from Central Kapangan to their place. From this, they are paid around twelve pesos to thirteen pesos per kilo of goods for a four-hour hike.

Due to this characteristic of sitio Lao-angan, it was chosen as the beneficiary of this year’s DDC’s Loving Out Loud (LOL) and Storytelling Caravan (STC), extension activities of the department through the Development Communication Society (DCS).

“This sitio lacks resources. They barely have a source of income to sustain their living,” said Michelle B. Gatab-Laruan, DCS Adviser.

After coordination with the sitio and the barangay, the group started their donation drive. Several individuals such as Dev Com alumni, faculty members, and other groups, intimated their support to the cause by giving school supplies, toys, clothes, food, and medicine.

The group was able to collect 36 sacks and 20 boxes of mixed items and goods.

These donations were carried from the barangay hall to Lao-angan barrio school. The residents from the sitio came to the jump-off point and helped in carrying the goods. It was noticeable that most of those who came to carry the goods were women and children. Accordingly, their husbands were at work either in the trading post as “comboys” or kargador, or in the mining areas, or in a “purdiya” in vegetable gardens in nearby municipalities.

Aside from giving goods to the community, storytelling caravan and games were also conducted for the children in the sitio.

“We are so blessed and thankful to BSU-DevCom for choosing our community for this outreach program,” Mario Tubias expressed, Barangay Kagawad of Gadang.//

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Blazing through the heat; Breezing through the rain

By Novelyn Balangui and Claudine Paulino

 

Johnny drives his tricycle almost every day. Under the blazing sun, he is still whirling on the wheels. With a face towel placed over his shoulder, he wipes his sweats while shaking the bell on his other hand. He is an ice cream vendor.

Johnny has been selling ice cream for almost 10 years now. He goes around Strawberry Farm in La Trinidad, Benguet where tourists usually flocks. Like every ice cream vendor in La Trinidad, his main ice cream’s main flavour is strawberry. Sadly, though, his income from selling ice cream flip flops as the weather and supply of fresh strawberries in the municipality also changes. As a result, he barely earn from selling ice cream. As an alternative when the supply of strawberry is low, he sometimes use powdered strawberry juice instead of fresh fruits.

In 2017, Sunstar, a daily publication in Baguio City, reported that Benguet ranked second as the most vulnerable provinces to climate change hazards in the Philippines. As a consequence, it contributed to lower vegetable production and farm income in Benguet.

In connection to this, according to a report by the Department of Agriculture (DA) Senior Agriculturist Lito Mocati, there is an estimated damage of 1.2 billion pesos in Cordillera’s agricultural sector in the same year.

Accordingly, other than intermittent rainy season, another effect of climate change is El Niño that is affecting the whole country. As such, water shortage is now experienced by the farmers at the Strawberry Farm in La Trinidad, Benguet.

According to Dona, a farmer at the Strawberry farm, due to water shortage, these plants become stunted. As a result, their plants are dying hence, they had to plant again. Rose Liwas, a farm tenant, said that their plants are also withering and dying due to sudden rain after a long day of being exposed to the sun.

“We don’t plant strawberry during rainy seasons because this area is prone to flooding,” Liwas said.

Some farmers, on the other hand, plant strawberry in a do-it-yourself elevated pot. However, it is not enough. Hence, the supply of strawberry is still scarce.

According to Jen, a seller at the Strawberry Farm, the decrease in supply of strawberries causes the increase of its price. Thus, only few can afford to buy it.

During rainy seasons, the temperature in Baguio and La Trinidad drops from 12 to 14. 44 degrees Celsius based on the records of the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA). This means that this drop in temperature results in cold weather.

In this case, Johnny cannot also sell ice cream, hence, no income again for him.

“Selling ice cream and construction work are the only jobs I know,” he said. Unfortunately, both these works are not feasible during rainy seasons.

To augment his income, he said, “I have to work double during the dry season so that I can earn and save for my family during rainy season.”

This story of Johnny is just but one of the many similar stories of meagre income earners due to the effect of climate change. Johnny, however, never loses hope.

“For as long as my strawberry ice cream is patronized, I will have something to bring on my family’s table,” he hopefully said.

Reviving Balili River through continuous clean-up drive

By Coores Epie Celoy and Vic Arthur Masliyan

Balili, one of the Barangays in the municipality of La Trinidad, Benguet is home to Balili River. This river became infamous when it was pronounced as a biologically dead in 2004 by the Department of Environment Natural Resources (DENR).

Accounts say, however, that the river used to be clean where fishes thrived abundantly.

“I remember washing my white uniform in the river in 1960’s,” recalls Terisita Panagan, Indigenous People’s Mandatory Representative of Brgy. Balili.

The river used to be clean and unpolluted, she said. This state of the river, however, changed when establishments and settlers started to flock in the municipality. Its population grew from 18, 921 to 19, 705 in 2015.  According to the reports, these contributed to the contamination of Balili River due to chemical spills and garbage.

Over the years, the river started to emit unusual stinky smell. Just recently, as investigation was conducted and it was found out that the unwanted smell is due to chemical spills coming from the big establishments in the municipality. This was reported to the DENR. As of press time, a letter was addressed to the said establishments about the result of the investigation.

This situation, however, did not flatter the hopes of the Barangay and its community to save the river. As such, they started a clean-up drive and continue to do so up to this time. The clean-up drive was initiated by the Barangay in partnership with different institutions such as Municipal Environment Natural resources Office (MENRO), DENR, and the Benguet State University (BSU). Moreover, the barangay passed an ordinance mandating the officials and the residents to conduct a clean-up drive every first Saturday of the month.

Apart from this routine, a house-to-house campaign on river pollution is also done by the officials in partnership with the DENR. The campaign aims to widen the understanding of cause and effect of the worsening condition of the river. In return, it will enable them to unite and instill discipline among the residents.

Along with the house-to-house campaign are other information drive through production and development of Informational Educational Communication (IEC) materials. These materials are strategically posted in different locale of the municipality.

Some residents, however, cannot stop but voice out their sentiments. Terisita Panangan claims that residents themselves and nearby business establishments contribute to the current state of the river.

Geronimo Vasques,  a carinderia owner, countered the claim saying, “How can they say that we are the main contributor if we have our own sink and CR not connected to the river?”

He said that efforts must focus more in addressing the source of problem in Baguio because the water flows from Baguio and descends towards Balili.

Modesto Cabatan, Provincial Environment Natural Resources Officer (PENRO), also said that establishments and residents from the Barangay are not the only contributors to the pollution but also the neighboring barangays. He also said that the issue of reviving the river is not new to everyone.

“No matter how much we wanted to put the river back to life, we can’t at the moment because there is lack of cooperation among the community,” he lamented.

He also emphasized during the interview that, “Only if there is political will to do so, I believe Balili River will return into class ‘A’ river”.

Barangay Balili has the same concern. They believe that the river can be revived with the full support and participation not only from Barangay Balili, but also among nearby communities.

In addition, residents of Balili also gave suggestions. Geronimo suggested a technological innovation like filter to be placed at the river to filter dirt and garbage from water coming from Baguio.

Gypsy Martes, also suggested a 24-hour shift from the task force to strictly monitor and catch whoever from the residents are throwing garbage at the river indiscriminately.

Finally, the residents intimated their willingness to cooperate in the activities regarding the clean-up drive of the river.

“We urge the barangay residents and the concerned citizens to lend a hand in this endeavour,” ended Cabatan.

VAW cases rise in Baguio and Benguet; Women and children urged to speak out, report

By Esjay Zausa and Carmina Vale Tarangco

“Mahal, tama na please.”

This is a common plea of Riza (not her real name) every time her partner would physically hurt her.

For years, she endured her relationship with Jun (not his real name) despite numerous abuses she suffered from her partner. These abuses include verbal abuse, economic abuse and physical abuse. She endured because she thought her partner would change eventually. But she did not.

According to Riza, the abuse from Jun started when they lived together. She is either pinned down, yelled at, and forced to work beyond normal hours in a rice field. This scenario got worst when she caught Jun using illegal drugs. As a result, Jun threatened her life and her family if ever she will disclose his drug use to the people. She kept silent.

After few years of living together in Pico, La Trinidad, Benguet, they transferred to Jun’s hometown in Pangasinan. Riza recalled that the abuses got worst to the extent that she was even dragged by Jun. Luckily, she was rescued by their neighbors.

This story of Riza is just but one of the hundreds or accounts of Domestic Intimate relationship Violence (DIV).

Violence against women is an act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual, or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life. It encompasses all forms of violation of women’s rights, including threats and reprisals, exploitation, harassment, and other forms of control.

In the first eight months of 2018, The Regional Committee against Trafficking, Child Pornography and Violence against Women and Children in the Cordillera Region, recorded 712 cases of violence against women and children (VAWC). Of the recorded cases, 424 are cases of violence against women while 298 are violence against children.

Data shows that Baguio city topped the list with 210 cases; Benguet, 96; Ifugao, 37; Abra, 33; Kalinga, 20; Apayao, 16; and Mountain Province, 12. In violence against children, Baguio city topped with 106 cases; Benguet, 55; Ifugao, 42; Abra and Kalinga with 30 each; Mountain Province, 22; and Abra, 13.

 Common abuses against women and children are physical, sexual, psychological or emotional, and economic violence. But most of the reported cases, were settled because of the intervention of influential family members aside from the fact that those accused were breadwinners.

Physical violence as the intentional use of physical force with the potential for causing death, disability, injury, or harm. It is the use of physical force to harm someone, it includes, but is not limited: scratching, pushing, shoving, throwing, grabbing, biting, chocking, shaking, hair-pulling, slapping, punching, hitting and other physical activities.

While for sexual violence is defined as sexual act that is committed or attempted by another person without freely given consent of the victim or against someone who is unable to consent or refuse.

Emotional abuse is a tool by those who want to make their partners feel scared, crazy, worthless, or responsible for the abuse. The abusers goal is control over the victim. Emotional abuse is an important element of partner violence and is often cited by women as the most hurtful, leaving long term psychological scars.

Lastly, economic violence takes place when an abuser takes control of or limits access to shared or individual assets or limits the current or future earning potential of the victim as a strategy of power and control that is economic abuse.

Records presented is very alarming in our society particularly in a certain family since it can cause a devastating impact on all family members. In families where violence exists, daughters and sons may grow up assuming that violence is part of marriage.

In an interview, Riza said that she used to think that the violence she experience was normal because she experienced and witnessed the same from her father. She was wrong.

Due to increasing cases of DIV, a Women’s Desk was put up in every city or municipality. Where in the “Women’s Desk” project was established in 2008 to 2010. The project is an example of a process by which local institutions and services have appropriated gender-mainstreaming methods in economic integration policies.

This aims to be a space for consultation and coordination between the various local services in order to improve the services provided for the women beneficiaries. It provides a range of services, starting with comprehensive care for women in precarious situations, listening to them to ascertain their problems and needs, providing them with information and referring them to either the relevant local services in case of legal, health, sociocultural or educational problems, or to the appropriate services for job seeking and socio-professional integration.

The project seeks the active involvement of women in local development through, improved access for women to local services in the region by providing them with information relating to all existing services, provided by both public services and associations.

Despite of this program, the authorities are still having a hard time, since some of the victims remain silent. This is due to some victims are being trapped in a cycle of violence. One of the reason is the victim may be economically dependent on the batterer, and not having a marketable job skill.

Often, the victims stay for the sake of their children, or the batterer make threats of violence against their children if the victim tries to leave.

“Ket syempre mabutengak nga mangipulong kadagiti awtoridad iti araramiden ni lakay ko kenyak gapo ta apan na siyak bagbagaan nga no ipulong ko ket mas karkaro nga dangran na siyak, nagnangruna dagita anak ko. Kayat ko koma nga ibaga ken da nanang na metlang ngem ada ladta day panang konsinte da keni lakay ko. (I was scared to report my husband to the authorities since he threatened to hurt me and my children. I wanted to seek help from his parents but his parents seemed to tolerate him.) Aling Gina a mother of four, said.

Still the authorities such as the head of La Trinidad women’s Desk, La Trinidad Municipal Police Station, Department of Social Welfare and Development and other offices encourages the victims of Violence against women including the children to report. This is not just to record such cases but also to give appropriate actions to the perpetrators.

“I feel safe now,” Riza said.

“When you are suffering from abuse, do not be afraid to seek help. Speak out!” Riza bravely ended.//